From The Blog

Worry Dolls: Why Grown Ups Need Them Too

Judith Warner has an interesting article in this weekend’s New York Times. It’s called “The Why Worry Generation” and...

Judith Warner has an interesting article in this weekend’s New York Times. It’s called “The Why Worry Generation” and it’s all about Gen-Y: the so-called “millennials” born between 1982 and 2002.

The thrust of the article is that even though these young people ought to be completely stressed out by the economic downturn, joblessness and high levels of debt they are confronting as they enter adulthood, they aren’t. They believe in themselves to the point that they are actually willing to wait for the right job to come along – one that’s fulfilling, not just pays the bills. And they believe that they are good enough to get it. In short: they just…don’t worry.

Warner bases her argument on a small group of  college grads with whom she conducted interviews. But her findings are borne out by a much larger study carried out by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press earlier this year. Pew also found the millennials to be remarkably hopeful and self-assured.

I read both articles and felt…anxious. Maybe it’s generational and maybe it’s just me. But I worry about everything. All the time.

I worry about money. I worry about my career. I worry about whether we’ll ever move back to the United States…or should. I worry about my kids: that they’ll be happy and well-adjusted and have lots of friends and never feel sad or lonely or excluded. I worry about my siblings. I worry about missing yoga. I worry about going to yoga. Sometimes I feel that even my worries have worries.

I have a lot of strategies for dealing with my worries. Sometimes I write them down in a little notebook. Sometimes I talk about them with my husband or my close friends or my life coach. Sometimes (she said, with a post-modern twist) I blog about them.

But by far the best remedy against my worries is a little tradition my daughter and I have started of late. As we were moving, I came upon a box of Guatemalan worry dolls that I’ve had for ages, dating back to when I lived in Central America many moons ago. If you haven’t seen worry dolls before, they are these tiny little dolls that come in a small, yellow wooden box. In the folk traditions of Guatemala, children are meant to tell a worry to each doll before they go to bed. In the morning – so the story goes – the children wake up and their worries are gone because the dolls have removed them.

Anyway, my daughter and I have built the worry dolls into our nighttime routine. Every night – just before she goes to sleep – we run through our joint worries, taking turns as we make our way through the dolls. What’s interesting¬† is how repetitive our worries are. My daughter always worries that she’ll “have a bad day” and “won’t like her lunch.” I always worry that I’ll “be stressed out” and “not get enough done.” Then we put the dolls in the box and close it with the lid.

It doesn’t always work. But there’s something deeply soothing about naming your worries out loud and then putting them in a box. It’s like a friend of mine who once cut out a picture of her ex-boyfriend and then stuck it in a bottle. The physical act of putting the proverbial “lid on it” really does help.

Added bonus? The whole process has reminded me of that great Dire Straits song “Why Worry.” Have a listen.

Happy Memorial Day.

Image: Worry Dolls by vintagecat via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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  1. BigLittleWolf May 31, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    I love the ritual you’ve established with the worry dolls. Exposing, perhaps exorcising, and then literally putting a lid on the worries. At least for the night. What a clever idea.

    I gave birth to two “millennials,” and they certainly don’t worry in the same way that I do. I wonder if my (over? realistic?) worrying has exempted them from a certain amount of their own worry, or if it is simply that in their youth, they’ve yet to understand the profound consequences of real worries (money, career, health, other life circumstances).

    Twinning indeed.

    • delialloyd June 1, 2010 at 9:35 am #

      interesting idea @biglittlewolf. I also think that my worry more than compensates for the rest of the household’s. maybe we’re all given a HH worry “budget” at time zero? I hope my kids worry less than I do as they grow older.

  2. Cathy June 1, 2010 at 9:12 am #

    I’m the mother of two “millennials” also. I’ve often longed for their laid back attitude about life. I’ve spent the last few years thinking they don’t worry because they knew I would do the worrying for them.

    I’m happy to hear it is generational. Somehow I don’t feel as taken advantage of by those two. I wonder though,does this mean I can now stop worrying also?

    Or, maybe what the mother of mellinneals needs is a very large collection of worry dolls.

    • delialloyd June 1, 2010 at 9:33 am #

      yes i think we all need about 60 of them; 6 just isn’t enough. thanks for stopping by, Cathy.

  3. Older than Elvis June 1, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    I’m glad it’s not just me! I think you’re right that it’s generational. I graduated in an insecure era and hurrah! it’s just come back again, now that I’ve reached the age when you’re supposed to have settled down and got complacent. They say you should write down your worries: mine just turn into huge ‘things to do’ lists. Then I worry that I won’t ever have time to do all the stuff on the list.

    • delialloyd June 1, 2010 at 2:04 pm #

      @olderthanelvis. I can totally relate! thx for dropping by!

  4. Daryl Boylan June 1, 2010 at 8:47 pm #

    Possible next bd gift — a baker’s dozen of worry dolls??

  5. Melissa June 3, 2010 at 1:52 am #

    I’m a millennial and I worry all the time, about everything. In fact, I’d say my parents were the ones who didn’t – and don’t – worry enough. So I find the comments particularly interesting.

  6. Shannon July 27, 2010 at 3:51 am #

    I found your post through suggestions linked up on one of my posts about Trouble Dolls, and I’m glad I did. I like the focus of your blog very much. I’ve been working on a series of Trouble Doll illustrations over the past 6 months or so, and it sparked a trouble doll project in the elementary school where a friend off mine is a 3rd grade teacher. Something about trouble dolls are just so basic and inspiring.
    Anyway, nice to stumble upon your blog!

    • delialloyd July 27, 2010 at 10:58 am #

      thank you. I’m glad that it spoke to you. I just popped over to your blog and LOVE the illustrations!


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